News & Blog


Legislature May Tinker with Tenure, “Right-to-Work”

Tenure Language Crops Up in State Budget Bill

On February 7, House Bill 49, the state budget bill, was released in full. It contained all of the components that we reported to you in our last e-mail. But it also included language about tenure that was not highlighted in the governor’s summary documents. Here is what it says:

(C)(1) The board of trustees of each state institution of higher education shall review the institution’s policy on faculty tenure and update that policy to promote excellence in instruction, research, service, and commercialization.

(2) Beginning on January 1, 2018, as a condition for a state institution of higher education to receive state funds for research that are allocated to the department of higher education under the appropriation line items referred to as either “research incentive third frontier fund” or “research incentive third frontier-tax,” the chancellor shall require the state institution to include a commercialization pathway for faculty tenure in its policy.

This language is ambiguous and appears to ask boards of trustees to do something that they already have the authority to do. The subtext of this seems to be that current tenure policies are not promoting faculty excellence. 

Some institutions of higher education around the country have added commercialization as a criterion for achieving tenure. It appears that the governor wants faculty to focus more on inventions and other things that can be commercialized without it inhibiting the ability to earn tenure. 

At minimum, this language would require institutions to revise their tenure policies to include provisions about commercialization. This likely would impact institutional governance documents and collective bargaining agreements.

This is just the starting point in the budget bill. We are in the midst of talking to legislators and getting a better sense of what they hope to achieve with this language. Certainly, there are legislators who would like to do away with tenure and have all faculty be at-will employees. We are working to educate lawmakers on the importance and benefits of tenure. 

Here are some talking points to use in the defense and promotion of tenure:

  • Tenure is not a job for life. It ensures due process for faculty so that they are not summarily fired without cause.
  • Tenure protects academic freedom, so that faculty may teach freely and confront controversial topics in their research and in the classroom. This is what helps facilitate critical thinking among students.
  • Tenure provides for a stable workforce at institutions of higher education. This stability is important to the institutions and students. 
  • Tenure helps to attract and retain quality faculty. 

Rep. Becker Re-introduces “Right-to-Work” Bill

Last year, we told you about House Bill 583, a “right-to-work” (RTW) bill for the public sector introduced by Rep. John Becker (R-Union Twp.). That legislation remained dormant for the duration of the last General Assembly. 

However, Rep. Becker has reintroduced an identical bill for this new legislature: House Bill 53. The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee, but no hearings have been scheduled yet. 

Like other RTW legislation, the bill would allow employees at a union shop to opt-out of paying fair share fees, which is what unions collect from non-members for contract enforcement and the benefits that all bargaining unit members receive.

Typically, in RTW states, unions still are required to represent non-members, even though they pay nothing, which creates a free rider problem. In order to inoculate against the free rider argument that unions have made against RTW, Rep. Becker included a clause saying that unions would not have to represent non-members.

Of course, such language creates a different set of problems. By having those “opt-out” employees not covered by a single bargaining unit, management could use this as a divide and conquer tool by awarding better salaries and benefits to those not in the union.

OCAAUP president John McNay and University of Cincinnati chapter president Ron Jones recently had an anti-RTW op-ed published by the Cincinnati Enquirer. In addition, AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum had a piece published in the Columbus Dispatch. 

We continue to work with the We Are Ohio coalition to combat RTW, and will continue to engage in public discussions about why “right-to-work is wrong” for Ohio, wrong for working and middle-class families, wrong for all of us.

Last Call for Nominations for 2017 Elections

We are now seeking nominations for the 2017 Ohio Conference AAUP Board of Trustees’ elections. In accordance with our governing document, you must have been a member for at least two years and current on your dues to be eligible for a trustee position.

Nominations should be sent to Sara Kilpatrick, Executive Director, at no later than February 20.  

Below is the list of positions to be elected directly through the Conference elections this year. Those who are elected will serve a two-year term beginning September 1.

  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • At-Large Member: Public or Private Institution (nominees may be members of a private institution or a public institution with fewer than 100 members)

The Vice President presides in the absence of the President, and serves as a delegate to the AAUP Annual Meeting and Assembly of State Conferences Annual Meeting, which take place concurrently every June in Washington, DC.

The Treasurer serves as a delegate to the Assembly of State Conferences Annual Meeting, in addition to being responsible for overseeing the State Conference budget.

Serving on the Board of Trustees is a rewarding way to engage in statewide AAUP issues and state government advocacy. If you have any questions, contact Sara Kilpatrick at 

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